FSU coach Jimbo Fisher learned well from consummate salesman Bobby Bowden on how to close a deal, and delivered a top-10 class. UM signed a paltry total of four players from the state in its small 2013 group and didn’t rate the top 25.
Florida, highly rated on ESPN’s list, signed a hefty class toward its goal of becoming a better passing team by mining Georgia and central and north Florida, although coach Will Muschamp likes to caution, “It’s not add water, instant player.” Quarterback Jeff Driskel can’t wait to throw to top-five-rated receiver Demarcus Robinson of Georgia, hoping he will give the Gators a weapon similar to Amari Cooper, the Miami Northwestern receiver who was key to Alabama’s national title.
Other South Florida kids decided to shun the so-so ACC and venture into SEC territory. You cannot fault them for accepting opportunities to play in the nation’s toughest conference. It’s hard to turn down Nick Saban at Alabama or Les Miles at Louisiana State or Muschamp at Florida.
The SEC, whose schools have won eight consecutive national titles, is the hot choice. Arkansas, under new management, is simmering. It was no surprise that Shannon, former UM player and coach, now an assistant at Arkansas and a friend of coach Harris, was able to help lure Kirkland from the school that fired him. He might also persuade South Plantation’s Alex Collins to pick the Razorbacks over the Hurricanes.
“Florida got what they needed, FSU flipped a couple of key kids and Miami salvaged its class a little bit by signing Stacy Coley,” recruiting expert Charles Fishbein said. “So much of recruiting is relationships, and Miami is rebuilding those. Even if they don’t end up losing any scholarships, the possibility of NCAA sanctions is still hanging over them.”
Fishbein lamented the “drop-off in local talent” this year. Golden said he is taking a self-imposed slap with his small class to send another message to the NCAA — in addition to the bowl bans — that UM has been conscientiously contrite during the two-year investigation.
But Golden is also betting on the future. The class of 2014 is considered a jackpot.